Photo: Lynn Betts, NRCS
One of the most significant
land use issues in the Great Lakes region is the continuing growth of
major metropolitan areas and sprawl of residential areas and related development.
C-CAP data show that 23 percent of the project area, or approximately
175,000 acres (70,819 hectares) is "developed" land, including
both high and low intensity developed lands.
Urban expansion is predominant on the U.S. side of Lake St. Clair while
the Canadian side remains primarily agriculture with pockets of urban
development. Only about 9 percent of the Canadian side of the project
area is considered developed while about 43 percent of the land on the
U.S. side is developed. On Walpole Island First Nation, although development
tends to be lower density, the pressure to develop housing and infrastructure
is growing as the population increases. Pristine natural areas are often
used for home sites, in spite of a pervading respect for nature among
community members, as land for building is difficult to acquire.
Urban development and expansion destroys and degrades habitat in numerous
ways. Construction activities remove all or nearly all vegetation on the
construction site and the soil is compacted and graded, decimating the
natural habitat once provided by the site. Without vegetation to intercept
the flow of rainfall, construction sites generate large volumes of sediment
that readily runs off into nearby storm drains, streams, rivers and lakes.
Urban development results in impervious land cover in the form of roads,
parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops. The "green" areas around
these developments rarely compensate for the impervious cover as soil
is compacted and vegetation is usually comprised of lawns and ornamental
shrubs and trees with lower water absorption and filtering capacity than
native grasses, trees and shrubs.
There is growing interest in policies and programs, often known collectively
as "smart growth" that aim to redirect public investments into
existing developed areas, protect existing open spaces and guide urban
development in a more sustainable and less environmentally-damaging, manner.
However, urban sprawl has become entrenched in North American culture
and significant changes in land development patterns will take concerted
long term efforts that cut across all public policy arenas. Changes in
tax policy, transportation policy, real estate policy and others will
be required before a more planned or sustainable urban form or development
pattern becomes well established.
For more information, see: Habitat
Assessment, Section V (PDF)